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June 9th 2009
Published: June 10th 2009
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DAY 56


The porter comes around waking all of us about 30 minutes before embarking at the station. We arrive on the Asian side of Istanbul, Turkey and leave the station and proceed directly to the ferry that will take us to the European side of Istanbul. We are finding it hard to multi task. We're trying to struggle with our bags, take photos and hurry about to be where we need to be. But the first views of Istanbul are amazing.

Leaving the ferry we have a short walk up the hill to our hotel. We are staying in the tourist area and it is only a short walk to all the tourist sights in the city. They have a very modern tram system that speeds thorough the streets and you always have to be careful not to get to close to the edge of the sidewalk or you will be hit by one of these trams. We only use the tram and the Metro to go out to the bus station to buy our tickets to Gallipoli, everything else is within walking distance.

We eat our last breakfast with all of our

Yes Dan, no need to check your pulse you're still alive! No Dave, it's the first call not the last call.
fellow group members and tour leader as this is our last day of the three week tour. We exchange e-mails and best wishes. However there are some lingering here in the city and we make plans to meet for dinner and drinks tonight. We just can't break the habit of being together.

We finally check into our room at about 10AM, freshen up and head out for a full day of sightseeing. We decide to see the Blue Mosque first, and this being Friday, the Mosque is closed from 12:30 to 2:30 for Muslims only to pray as today is their holy day. A local man approaches us to tell us this and suggests that we visit his carpet store instead. We nicely tell the man that we plan to view the Basilica of St. Sophia. And we advise him that we bought carpets in Cappadoccia. He says OK.

The Aya Sophia Basilica was not named for a saint but for divine wisdom. It was destroyed by fire in 532AD and rebuilt and reopened in 537AD. It underwent major restorations in the 1500's. Eventually it was used as a Mosque.

Today it is a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was made a museum in 1935. There are mosaics with gold leaf dated back to the 1200's. Museum., is one of the finest buildings of all times built by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th C. has a immense dome that is 55 meters tall and spans 31 meters wide. It is undergoing vast renovations at this time.

When we exit the museum we find the man waiting for us. We tell him we are going across the street to the Cisterns and he says OK. When we come out, he is there!! We now feel he is stalking us. So we try o tell that we are really not interested in seeing carpets.

The Yerebatan cistern is a 6th C. Byzantine construction which is an immense underground water storage chamber that has 336 massive Corinthian columns that support the fine brick vaulted ceilings.

One of the mysteries of cistern are the 2 large Medusa carved blocks that are found supporting 2 of the columns in the far NW corner of the cistern. One is upside down and the other is lying on it's side. No one knows why and can only guess that they came from another building and put here on purpose.

It is now after 2.30pm so our next stop is the imperial Sultanahmet Mosque which has 6 minarets and was built from 1609-1616 and is known as the Blue Mosque because of the interior paneling of blue white iznik tiles.

Prayers are still in progress. We ensured our shoulders and knees are covered, removed our shoes and entered the Mosque. The Mufti (Priest) and pray callers were in the niche, which is facing Mecca. The men at prayer are at the front of the Mosque and the women are at the back with the children. The is a dividing ballistrade to stop tourists from entering the prayer area. It was a lovely experience to see everyone praying and to hear the prayers.

Francine exited the Mosque first to find the man waiting on the steps near the door. Francine alerted Angie to be ready. We chat with our stalker and then advise him that we are heading to the Bazaar and bid our farewell. Everyone is trying to earn a living and they just want you to visit their shop in hope of making a sale. So we try to be polite to him.

We pause to take a self portrait photo and a young man offers to take a photo for us. We hope he doesn't run away with the camera. We begin to chat with him. He is from Cologne, Germany and is walking to Israel. So far he as walked 3000km. He is a Christian and is meeting his family there and has just decided to walk to Israel. He is a lovely young man and we wished him well in his travels. We have met the most wonderful, interesting people along our way. This is what makes our trip fullfilling and such the experience it should be.

The streets of Istanbul are crowded with visitors and locals. There are street vendors selling corn on the cob, pretzel like breads, ice cream, kebabs and souveniers. Like a carnival atmosphere.

Francine bought the ice cream from a vendor who uses a long metal rod (sword like) to scoop out the ice cream and they do it in a very entertaining way. The ice cream is the Turkish donduram and has an elastic consistency. It melts like

Never one to turn down a challenge.
normal ice cream but when you go to lick it, it stretches and you have to bite it off. And it tastes delicious with all the usually flavours.

We also visit the Grand Bazaar, which was the commerical heart of the old city. and it houses over 4000 shops selling everything. And it it expensive. Intending to target the tourist. Not like the usually bazaar where you can bargain to a decent price for both tourist and shopkeeper.

We don't really enjoy it as it is very overwhelming with never ending shops and twisted streets. You find it hard to get any sort of navigational bearrings.

The Spice Market from the 17thC. is a colorful and aromatic place to visit and is supposed to have the best Turkish Delight in the City. This is a jelly type of sweet in various flavors. We buy some plain and rose flavors and it is very good. Francine says it is better than any she has tried in Australia and doesn't usually like it. This Turkish is a delight.

For dinner, six of the group met at an English Pub. Then Francine, Di, Wendy, Ray and I walked to the old town area behind the Blue Mosque to meet Rachel, Dan, May and Dave at the JUST BAR for drinks. We got there about 9:00 and didn't leave till 2:30 in the AM.

Needless to say we had a few beers (pints) and danced and had a really good time. The bartender was our friend.
We were able to talk with some of the locals and one young man was a Turk by birth but lives in Pasadena CA. and was visiting friends and relatives. It was the first real nightlife we have had the whole trip so we cut loose a little. Frangie made sure the group farewell was a success.

Don't have to tell you that we slept very well.

DAY 57

We slept in till about 9:30 and missed breakfast but Francine was able to get us an egg and bread. Once again we are off to see the city. We stop at a little store just around the corner to buy some knickĀ knacks. We stock up on the evil eye items to help protect us from others and mainly ourselves.

We walk along the waterfront and cross the bridge

Previously the Basilica of Hagia Sophia
over to the Asian side of the bay. We decide to stop for lunch and we reume our walk to the Galata Tower when we just happen upon a Designer's Showing at the base of the tower. There are tents set up along the street where young designers were showing and selling their items of clothes, jewelry and accessories. We looked but did not buy.

The Galata Tower was built in 528 by Emperor Justinianus and it offers a fantastic view of Istanbul. Francine declines but Angie goes up to take pictures and to enjoy the view.

Our next goal is to go to the bus station and purchase tickets for tomorrows journey to the Gallipoli area. This requires a trip on the tram then a short walk to the Metro. When getting to the bus station we are overwhelmed at the number of independent bus companies. There are at least 200 to choose from.

Angie asks a Policeman standing near by if he spoke English and before he could answer a young man walking past, stopped and said that he did. So we explained that we wanted to travel to Gallipoli area but not on a

3000 KM on foot
tour and if he could help us decide what company to use. He personally walked us to the station and interpreted the whole transaction for us.

He had worked in the USA in a fishing cannery in Kodiak Alaska and traveled to Washington DC. He told us that he loved America. But before leaving for the USA his friends and family in Turkey told him not to go because America was very dangerous and he would be arrested and thrown in jail. We laughed because we had the same advice from our friends and family about Turkey and other Middle East countries. Showing the misconceptions we have about other countries.

We thank this young man over and over again for his help and he said that when he was in America, the people were very friendly and helpful to him, that he was only returning the favor. We exchanged emails and we will be practicing our Turkish while he practices his English.

We return to the hotel just in time to freshen up for our last dinner in Istanbul with Dan and Rachel. A wonderful Australian couple who had been so helpful with some of our computer

Ayasofya Museum
issues and Dan downloaded a program for us to use when uploading photos to the web to speed the process. And Rachel was able to help with the programming and connection issues. I offered to adopt them both so I could have computer assistance for life. The offer remains open!!

Sadly following dinner we bid farewell and best wishes and return to our hotel to pack and ready ourselves for our next part of the journey. This time we will be traveling on our own. This is the first time Francine and I have traveled without being in a group. So we will learn each others manner of planning and organizing.

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23



Ayasofya Museum. Put your thumb in the hole & turn your hand around, whilst making a wish

Bottom of column in the Basilica Cistern

upside down mystery

A covered area

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